The Resuscitation Council (UK) published a statement in July 2006 concerning the standards expected of dental practitioners and dental care professionals (DCPs) in general practice within the UK for the management of medical emergencies and resuscitation techniques.
The document reflects the public expectation that dental practitioners, DCPs and their support staff should be able to deal promptly and effectively with a medical emergency that might occur within a dental setting.
The latest guidelines from the Resuscitation Council (UK)1 advises that Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) should be available in every healthcare environment and that the dental surgery is not seen as an exception.
With an increasingly ageing population and patients with complex medical histories routinely seeking and receiving dental care in general practice, it is incumbent upon the healthcare team to be aware of the vulnerability of these patients and to take appropriate precautions to protect them.
Some patients are anxious about dental treatment, and the anxiety can be compounded by the medication and treatment given to patients by dentist or DCPs. The public and the GDC expect members of the dental team to be able to recognise and manage medical emergencies appropriately and promptly. There is also an expectation that a team will be appropriately trained and rehearsed.
AEDs are increasingly regarded as a necessary item of equipment in the diagnosis and management of cardiac arrest and its precursors. The failure to use an AED on a collapsed patient may result in a member of the dental team being challenged if it can be shown that it could have favourably influenced the outcome. This could also result in criticism of the dental practitioner or DCP treating the patient but also the team member and/or practice owner responsible for equipping and arranging training for the practice.
The existence of a recommendation of this nature from a body as authoritative as the Resuscitation Council means that a dental professional may be challenged where the standard of care provided differs from these guidelines.
Members are advised to study the guidelines carefully and review the implications for their own practice setting(s). The standard by which a dental professional will be judged is whether a reasonable, respected and competent body of opinion would support the approach to treatment and the facilities available to support it.
1. Medical Emergencies and Resuscitation – Standards for Clinical Practice and Training for Dental Practitioners and Dental Care Professionals in General Dental Practice; July 2006